There are some opportunities in life that are just too good to let them pass you by. Visiting Ascot Racecourse is one of these opportunities, so when we were invited to the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Club 2013, I instantly agreed to attend. Then I started worrying about the dress code and then about taking an active toddler. I mean, what does one wear to Ascot and what was I thinking when I agreed to bring a 2 year old?
Being German means that I had literally no idea about what happens at a horse race apart from horses racing obviously. I didn’t know how many races there are, where the horses and jockeys are from and how the whole betting works. All I knew about horse races was that the Queen likes them and that Ascot is a biggy in the horse racing world. If I am completely honest, it was the only horse race that I had ever heard of before going and no, I’m not living under a rock. It’s just not something I had ever been introduced to.
When we arrived in Ascot, the entire town was buzzing with excitement. Well dressed ladies and gentlemen lined the streets, carried picnic baskets and champagne bottles and made their way down the high street. We parked in one of the car parks close to the race course and paid £6 for the day, which is a really fair price considering where you are. After picking up our tickets, we made our way through the west entrance and spent a couple of minutes near the parade ring – taking it all in and soaking up the atmosphere. The whole stadium was much much bigger than I had anticipated and there was so much to do for all the family.
Amy loved watching all the horses walk past, but when she met the Ascot mascot, she quickly changed her mind. First she frowned, then she shouted no and then she started hiding her face and big crocodile tears made an appearance, bless her. She quickly got over herself and started enjoying the day though.
We had agreed to meet up with my friend Andrea from All You Need Is Love And Cake and it was lovely to share the day with her and her little family. Andrea and I have known each other for almost three years through and online baby group, but this was actually the first time we had met. We instantly clicked in real life and had a great time chatting and laughing, while Ben and Andrea’s partner Michael chatted about which horse to bet on and Amy and little Sophie chased around the Grand Stand.
We were given Premier Admission tickets, which allow you to access almost every area of the race course, but as we had the girls with us, we decided to spend the afternoon in the Grand Stand and let them run around. And guess what, despite thousands of people, we managed to find Mummy Barrow and her lovely husband Bruce, who sat right in front of us – something that I only noticed because I was chasing after Amy. What a lovely surprise!
Amy and Sophie had an absolute blast. They gave each other kisses and cuddles, shared crisps and grapes and stared at the screen in disbelief when the crowd started cheering for their horses. I think it was quite an experience for them, but they were good as gold throughout the entire day and I really think they enjoyed themselves. I was worried about taking Amy initially, as I thought she might get bored or disturb other race goers, but everyone was really welcoming and the two girls got lots of smiles and compliments for their pretty dresses.
The parade ring was one of my favourite parts of the race course as it brought us really close to the horses and their grooms. It’s the place where the horses must come before the race, so that the public can see, if the horse is in good shape and it’s the place where they are prepared for their race.
To the left and right of the parade ring, you can find a number of small cafes and bars that invite you to relax in the sun. There were also some rides for older kids and lots of little stalls, so really something for all ages and the entire family. We had a light lunch at a picnic table while Amy and Sophie drew some horses and played in a small soft play area, before we walked over towards the Old Paddock and Motivator lawn for the concert in the evening.
It was absolutely heaving and as we both had the girls in buggies towards the end of the day, we decided to stay nearer the stadium and listen to the concert from the distance. Bands like Atomic Kitten, Blue and 80s star Rick Astley created a great atmosphere and we had a great time singing along to their hits while the girls had a little boogey.
Our day at Ascot was also the perfect occasion to dress up and Ben really enjoyed wearing a suit jacket and shirt whereas I hated the idea of wearing a dress. I know that I could have worn a trouser suit or something, but I had this idea in my head that anything less than a dress wasn’t acceptable, so I forced myself to wear one and let me tell you something: I’m feeling much more comfortable about it now than I did before, so I might actually end up wearing it more often.
Amy took to the Ascot dress code like a fish to water by the way. She even borrowed Andrea’s fascinator to look like all the ladies she admired. How cute does she look? I was so pleased that it was such a child-friendly day as it meant that we could all enjoy it in our own way. Amy and Sophie became the best of friends throughout the day and enjoyed each other’s company, while we adults did exactly the same – just with some excellent horse races thrown into the mix. Amy and Sophie were maybe a little young to understand it all – I might be too seeing as betting still seems like rocket science to me – but after our day at the races, I am now much more comfortable to take Amy again. It was so much more family-friendly than I had anticipated. There were activities for children of all ages and the concert in the evening as well as cheering for your horse were a great way to bring everyone together.
We had a fantastic day and will hopefully be back next summer. Royal Ascot seems really tempting now. I might be German and no horse racing expert, but I am still a massive fan of the Royal family, so seeing them enjoy a day by the race track just like me – okay, they might be drinking champagne, while I enjoy some cherry cider – sounds like the perfect day out for me.
Have you ever attended a horse race, maybe even Ascot? I’d love to hear about your day! Did you enjoy yourself? Did you place a winning bet and most of all fascinator – yes or no?
Disclosure: We were provided with a free family ticket to experience a day at Ascot Racecourse.